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Philadelphia Flyers Signing of Nikolai Zherdev Is Puzzling

NEW YORK - MARCH 21: Nikolai Zherdev #13 of the New York Rangers celebrates his assist as Sean Avery #16 (R) celebrates scoring the goal against the Buffalo Sabres during their game on March 21, 2009 at Madison Square Garden in New York City.  (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
Chris McGrath/Getty Images
Mark RitterSenior Writer IJuly 10, 2010

The Philadelphia Flyers have confirmed what many were speculating for a few days now—they have signed Russian forward Nikolai Zherdev to a one-year contract, believed to be worth $2 million.

Zherdev, who was drafted fourth overall in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, left the NHL in favor of the KHL last season when the New York Rangers refused to pay him after he was awarded a hefty salary via arbitration.

Playing for Atlant-Moscow of the KHL, Zerdev registered 13 goals and 39 points in 52 games played underwhelming totals, to say the least.

The signing is a curious one, as it puts the Flyers in a hole financially, all but forcing them to move a big-ticket player off the roster via trade, waivers, buyout, or by burying a player in the AHL.

According to capgeek.com, the Flyers have a total of 22 players signed for the 2010-11 season, leaving the Orange and Black at -$1,422,262 in cap room.

While the Flyers roster does include goaltenders Michael Leighton and Brian Boucher, many suspect that the Flyers are still looking for another veteran goaltender, with Boucher being the odd man out.

If this is true, it will serve to put the Flyers further in the red, which will necessitate another roster move.

The Flyers were rumored to have asked Simon Gagne to lift his no-trade clause, a rumor that was later refuted by Gagne on RDS—the French version of TSN.

It was also rumored that the Flyers would put Gagne on waivers, but that has yet to be substantiated.

If the Zherdev signing does force Flyers General Manager Paul Holmgren to move Gagne, it may come back to bite him in the butt.

Gagne, who won a gold medal as a member of Canada’s Olympic squad in 2002, has a proven track record, scoring 259 goals and 524 points in 664 career NHL games.

Gagne, who was drafted by the Flyers in the first round (22nd overall) in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft, scored 17 goals and 40 points in an injury-riddled 2009-10 season, following that up with a strong playoffs, which saw him score nine goals and three assists in 19 games.

Zherdev, 25, is a two-time 20-plus goal scorer, netting 26 goals as a member of the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2007-08 and 23 goals as a member of the 2008-09 New York Rangers.

He has played in seven career playoff games—where he is yet to register a point.

So, why then is Holmgren going with Zherdev—a player who, while very talented, has the reputation for taking nights off and for being soft— in favor of Gagne, who, despite his injuries, has proven to be a very valuable asset to the Flyers?

Ya got me!

Simply put, the Zherdev signing looks to be a puzzling one, a signing that, on the surface, looks to be a step backwards for a team that flirted with a Stanley Cup victory this spring—not exactly encouraging for Flyers fans.

Until next time...

Peace!

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